Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You Never Know Who Is Interviewing You

No one should ever assume one interviewer is less important than another.  There is always a reason why a company puts someone in the interviewing loop.

Many candidates, particularly senior executives, have confessed to me that they blew interviews because they considered the people they were talking to be irrelevant or inferior.  This often happens when senior executives are asked to meet human resources people towards the end of their interview process. While these interviews may be more courtesy than real, a bad or dismissive attitude can cost a job. 

One very senior human resources candidate told me a story which illustrates this point.  He was almost through the interviewing process at a major company.  He had one final interview. His last interview was with an older person who was nearing retirement and had had this job many years before.  He took this interview for granted - it was at the end of a grueling day of multiple interviews and the candidate just assumed that it was a courtesy interview with the outgoing person. He told me he may have been dismissive.

Unfortunately, he got dinged by the interviewer who thought he was rude.  My candidate confessed that his obvious disinterest in the interviewer cost him the job. Ironically, my candidate was a very senior (and expensive) human resources executive; he told me that he learned a big lesson from this error in judgement on his part. 

When I was an advertising agency executive, Ii was once on an interview to become head of account management at a small agency. While I was waiting for the CEO whose name was on the door, i was brought into a small room which looked like a den. A disheveled woman came in and offered me soda or coffee. She sat down to chat with me while I waited to be interviewed by the CEO. After about ten minutes of chit-chat, I realized she was interviewing me. I had no idea who she was and she certainly didn’t look like an executive.  She actually was wearing a dress, but had stockings rolled down to her ankles. Finally the CEO came in and she sat through his interview with me.

It turned out that she was both the office manager and the CEO’s girlfriend.  I was totally turned off and uninterested in the job. But the point is that anyone who meets you from a company may have the ability to ding you.

These days of casual clothing, people come to meet me, especially on Fridays, wearing ridiculously inappropriate clothing.  One young executive actually told me she would not dress this way on a “real” interview.  Little did she understand that meeting a recruiter might be far more important in the long run than any single person she might meet at a company..

There is no such thing as a courtesy interview.  Anyone you interview with may have the ability to ding you and, on the other hand, could introduce you to other people within (or out) their company.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Adventures In Advertising: Perception Is Reality

Once upon a time, I took a job as senior vice president and head of account management at what turned out to be one of the worst ad agencies, ever (I stayed less than six months).  Therefore, all names will be left out.  But this story happened exactly as I am reporting it.  And it is funny.

The creative director was well known; he wrote a column for one of the advertising publications and he had written and published a book about advertising. It was rumored that one of the account supervisors reporting to me was having an affair with him, but no one knew for sure.  What I did know is that anything I discussed with the ECD somehow got to the account person before I could tell her.  And, of course, anything I told her, he knew before I could tell him.

One day, we were all at a client sales meeting in the New Jersey suburbs.  I was due to present something to the client sales force at about 3pm.  The client was nice enough to have an agency suite.  At about 2:30 I realized that I had left my notes in the room.  

So I walked back to the room to get them.

I unlocked the door and walked in to retrieve my briefcase.  And what did my eyes behold?  There, to my surprise, was the creative director and the account supervisor naked on the bed, going at it.  She was on top, sitting up.  She tried to cover herself with one hand and looked straight at me.

She said, very seriously, “This isn’t what you think.”  Honestly, that is what she said.  I looked at both of them and said, “Yes it is.  It is exactly what I think.”  I got my briefcase and left, smiling all the way back to the meeting.

It was never discussed with either of them again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Temp-To-Perm: Good, Bad or Indifferent?

In the advertising and marketing business there is a vigorous market for freelance talent, especially among creative people – writers, art directors, producers.  Those lucky enough to have a good reputation and a large client/contact list can make a very good living while freelancing.  Many of these people end up being hired permanently. 

There are many companies that like to initially hire on a temporary basis and, if it works out, will hire people for keeps.  This is excellent when candidates are out of work and between jobs – and want to work at the company.  It is good for both the company and potential employees as it gives each a chance to evaluate the other.

This is a great way to hire on a short-term basis.  Many candidates actually prefer it.  The problem is that it often takes several months for both the company and the candidate to become comfortable with each other and fully understand their warts and imperfections.  

However, freelance is just not the same as full time, at least on a psychological basis. A freelance employee is available to work on other assignments, even if the current gig is permalance (full-time freelance at the same company).  A freelance employee still has a certain degree of autonomy which does not exist with a full-time worker. And a freelancer can walk away from their temporary job with complete immunity, even if they have committed to stay longer. Many freelancers prefer those benefits.  It is the same for the company.  There is no real commitment on the employer’s part as freelance rarely comes with benefits, including vacation.

On the other hand, I recently accepted, but then turned down, an assignment from a well-known marketing firm.  They never told me that when they hired a candidate, any candidate, the first three months was always on a W-4 basis and freelance.  Unfortunately, I only found this out while I was about to negotiate an offer for a candidate who was currently employed full time and relatively happy where she was. When the company spelled this out as the basis of the hire, I advised the candidate not to take the job; I couldn’t recommend that she leave a relatively secure job for one where they were obviously “testing” her. The company was not happy with me.  The feeling was mutual.

Hiring a candidate on this basis is unfair if a candidate is working.  For starters, it sets the wrong tone.  While in most states, all hires are “at will”; the beginning of a new employee/employer relationship should be with both parties fully embracing each other with complete enthusiasm.  If the employer starts the relationship and makes it clear that it is a trial period, this is indicative of a lack of commitment on their part, as opposed to a full time hire, which would indicate complete enthusiasm. 

Even beyond that, there is a certain distrust that exists when an employee is overtly hired on a temp basis. It also sends a signal that there is probably an issue with people working at the company. In my opinion, any company which does this habitually, knows that there is something inherently wrong with their culture if they must hire first on a trial period. I know one marketing consultancy that has a huge fall-off with new employees because the CEO is extraordinarily difficult and abusive. Their hiring of-employees on a 90 day trial period is indicative of their awareness of this problem, even if they deny it.

I love the idea of temp to perm when an employee is out of work and wants to work at the hiring company.  It is a true chance of trying before buying.  However in this case, the company is obligated to handle the employee as if they were committed and full time.  That way it works for both of them.

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